West Bengal Panchayat polls: Opposition claims it couldn't file nominations in 80% seats
The tussle between Opposition and the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) in the West Bengal Panchayat elections is continuing. The Opposition parties claim that they were unable to file nominations in around 80% places due to threats by the ruling party. Adding to the their agony was the West Bengal State Election Commission's decision to withdraw its earlier notification extending the last date for filing nominations from 9 April to 3 PM on 10 April.
The new order mentioned said “It appears that there was no specific direction by the Supreme Court of India for extension of the nomination date. Therefore, on perusal of all the papers and considering all the points, the Commission hereby recalls the said order and therefore rescinds the (previous) order.”
The decision created huge resentment among the Opposition parties. On Tuesday, various Opposition parties staged a demonstration outside the SEC office. The BJP has threatened to approach the courts again. The High Court will be hearing the matter on Thursday. Meanwhile, the CPI(M) has called for a state-wide bandh on Friday, 13 April.
According to the BJP, it could not file nominations in around 26,000 seats out of 48,650. Out of a total number of 9,217 seats in Panchayat Samiti, they could file nominations around 4,500 seats and out of a total of 825 seats in Zilla Parishad, they could file nominations in around 550 seats.
Sources in the state BJP said that the worst affected districts include Birbhum, Bankura, Burdwam, South 24 Parganas and parts of North 24 Pargana and Murshidabad .
According to CPI(M) leaders, the party could not file nominations around 40,000 GP seats, 7,000 seats in for the Panchyat Samiti and 300 seats for the Zilla Parishad.
According to the figures collected from the state BJP office, in Birbhum the party was able to file nominations in 3,000 GP seats, while at the Panchyat Samiti they could field candidates in 450 seats. The party was only able to field a candidate in one ZP seat.
In Burdwan BJP could file nominations at 3,000 Gram Panchyat seats, 300 seats Panchyat Samiti seats and 20 seats in the Zilla Parishad.
In Bankura BJP could file nominations at 2,000 Gram Panchayat seats, 250 Panchayat Samiti seats and 22 seats for the Zilla Parishad.
In South 24 Parganas, BJP could file nominations 2,000 Gram Panchayat seats, 200 Panchayat Samiti seats and 15 Zilla Parishad seats.
In Murshidabad, BJP could file nominations in 3,000 Gram Panchyat seats , 350 Panchyat Samiti seats and 30 Zilla Parishad seats.
According to state BJP president Dilip Ghosh “This is simply grabbing of power. We have already informed to the State Election Commission that our party workers were unable to file their nominations. Even on Monday our workers were beaten up in many places when they went to file their nominations even at the SDO office. After receiving the Supreme Court judgment , we went to the Election Commission and urged it to provide proper security coverage for filing of nominations”.
In response to a petition by the BJP, the Supreme Court had refused to intervene in the poll process and instructed the party to approach the state election commission.
According to CPI(M) leaders, the party workers were unable to file their nominations even on the last day for the process.
A four-member team led by CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty met State Election Commissioner Amarendra Singh and handed over the nomination papers of those candidates who could not file nominations.
CPI(M) leader Robin Deb said “ There is total anarchy in West Bengal . The ruling party is trying to grab power without elections. It won’t last long. We met with the State Election Commissioner on Monday as well and urged him to take proper steps so that candidates could file their nominations. We are ready to fight in 100% seats”.
Adhir Chowdhury, West Bengal Congress chief, said "I went to the High Court on Monday and appealed it to take steps so that we could file nominations peacefully. We are unable to file nominations in majority of the districts except a few seats in Malda and Murshidabad."
In his petition, Chowdhury claimed that the ruling AITC workers are perpetrating violence in the state to terrorise Opposition candidates. He appealed for the deployment of central forces to ensure security of voters as well as candidates during the panchayat elections.
The ruling AITC, however, has accused the Opposition of trying to discredit the state government.
According to state parliamentary affairs minister, Partha Chatterjee, “ It's the Opposition's failure that they could not file their nominations. The simply don't have the manpower to contest the elections. The peopple of Bengal are with us. They will never support parties which try to divide Bengal”.